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CSPS Virtual Café Series: Social Media, Trust and Building Healthy Communities (TRN5-V34)


This event recording features a conversation with early social media adopters Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman on how social media has helped them engage with the public, develop brand trust, and build stronger communities.

Duration: 00:55:31
Published: September 14, 2022
Type: Video

Event: CSPS Virtual Café Series: Social Media, Trust and Building Healthy Communities

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CSPS Virtual Café Series: Social Media, Trust and Building Healthy Communities

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Transcript: CSPS Virtual Café Series: Social Media, Trust and Building Healthy Communities

[The CSPS logo appears on screen.]

[Vanessa Vermette appears on screen]:

Vanessa Vermette, Canada School of Public Service: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Canada School of Public Service. My name is Vanessa Vermette and I'm the Director General of Communications and Engagement here at the Canada School. I'm really pleased to be moderating today's event, which is part of the Virtual Café series. This series aims to introduce Public Servants to distinguished speakers and explore interesting ideas and topics through conversation.

Je voulais aussi mentionner que l'interpretation simultanée sera disponible pour lévenemént aujourd'hui.

You can choose to view the event in the language of your choice. Before proceeding further, I'd like to acknowledge that since I'm broadcasting from Ottawa, I'm in the traditional unceded territory of the, Anishinaabeg people. While participating in this virtual event, let us recognize that we all work in different places and that therefore we each work in a different traditional indigenous territory. I'd like to please take a moment to reflect on this and invite you to do the same.

So today's event is all about social media, public engagement and trust. We have a really interesting event in store for you that's going to focus on this topic and how we can use it as Public Servants to better engage the public and build that trust. We have two absolutely incredible speakers with us today. They both have a great deal of experience using social media and they understand personally the immense potential and impact that it offers to us, as well as some of the problems and challenges that can arise from its use, especially for professionals and public figures that have large followings.

[00:01:40 Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

So our first guest is someone many of you will already recognize Naheed Nenshi is a community builder and served three terms as the Mayor of Calgary from 2010 to 2021. Mr. Nenshi's campaign for Mayor was dubbed the "Purple Revolution". It was a uniquely viral campaign that relied heavily on the use of social media and was groundbreaking in a lot of ways. He promoted his platform and engaged voters through this medium, Mr. Nenshi, welcome!

Naheed Nenshi: Merci Vanessa, thank you so much for being here,

Ça me fait grand plaisir d'ętre parmi vous tous,

and I'm really looking forward to this conversation.

Vanessa Vermette: Super thank you. Our second speaker is a journalist and author Marsha Lederman. Ms. Lederman is the western arts correspondent for the Globe and Mail, and her reporting focuses on a range of topics, including the film and TV industry, visual arts, theater, literature, and cultural policy. Like most journalists, Ms. Lederman is active on social media, and she also recently shared a YouTube video in which she and other female journalists talk about the disturbing online hatred that they've received as journalists and the importance of not allowing this type of harassment to become normalized. So, Ms Lederman thank you so much for being with us today.

Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail: Thank you so much for having me. I am not going to Speak any French.

Vanessa Vermette: <laughs> C'est parfait.

Marcha Lederman: Je m'excuse. <laugh>

Vanessa Vermette: No problem.

Marcha Lederman: So I have lied already <laugh>

Vanessa Vermette: Yeah, you already spoke French! So I want to talk about the theme of engagement and trust building first. So Mr. Nenshi, you kind of came out of nowhere in 2010 as people kind of recount it, and your campaign really used social media in a way that was innovative at the time and that people really hadn't seen before in politics. So maybe talk to us a little bit about the role of social media back in 2010 and how you and your campaign leveraged it. And maybe talk a little bit about 12 years later, what reflections you have about how that all went down way back in the day.

Naheed Nenshi: Oh, big question. So Marsha, I'll leave you a couple minutes at the end then for you to fill in, we've only got an hour.

Vanessa Vermette: Oh my gosh. <Laugh> I'll just, I should have said briefly. I should have said briefly

Naheed Nenshi: We're poor Marsha is used to this. So when she has to talk to me, it's, you know, ask one question and good luck editing that <laugh> but let me actually back up a little bit and contextualize that 2010 campaign.

[Nahed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: So when we were planning that campaign, you know, I'm a strategist by training and at heart, and we really were thinking hard about how do you run a campaign where you have a very non-traditional candidate who's not very well known who is running against people who are very well known and who have a lot more money. And so I would argue that there were three elements of success in that campaign. And the first was timing. At that moment, Calgary and Alberta, maybe Canada were ready for a new conversation. Politics felt very rigid, very sclerotic, and people were ready for something new because they were really thinking about how politics could better reflect their own hopes and dreams and ambitions for their lives.

The second was my political philosophy - because I'm retired now I can see that I'm not wearing any purple in the zoom thing.

[Naheed Nenshi gestures at his clothing and smiles]

Naheed Nenshi: I am wearing purple socks. I have a purple vase behind me. But for 12 years I have worn purple every single day. And that's not because it's my favorite color or because it brings out my eyes it's because purple is a combination of red and blue. And so it's actually a political statement saying that we are not defined by our tribe or our partisanship or our political parties. We're defined by our humanity, but, nonetheless I do have a political philosophy and that political philosophy is that people aren't stupid, that citizens when given the right information will make the right decisions. And so you need to engage people at a deeper and broader level. So in that campaign we decided, and because it's also me, I after all these years in public life, I still don't know how to speak in soundbites.

And because I talk so much and write so much, we decided that we would run a campaign that we called "politics in full sentences". And for many years, journalists has said to me, the full sentences are fine, but why are there so many of them?

[Vanessa Vermette appears on screen, laughs]:

[Nahed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: But what we did was every week for three months, 12 weeks, we released a new policy platform and it would have sort of a pithy title:" transit should be the preferred choice, not the last choice for commuters." And then it would have kind of a one or two page summary of what I intended to do, a video and an audio podcast, which was very new then I don't think we even have the word podcast at that time, but a video and audio release, if you like. And then there was also a research paper attached to each one of these with footnotes and case studies and examples, for ways that's worked in other parts of the world.

And every one of the - we call them better ideas. Every one of those better ideas had more words in it that the combined platforms of all of my opponents,

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Naheed Nenshi: and we were able to use online tools to recognize that people were actually engaging with this stuff. I would put out a five or seven minute video, which in those days was unheard of nothing went past two minutes and we could see people would watch it all the way to the end. I had a 14 minute speech that someone recorded that I wasn't intending on putting online that they did. And we saw that thousands of people watched it all the way to the end, which was shocking. And so people were really aching for that kind of content.

The third piece was a very traditional political strategy, which is go to people where they live. And so that meant don't expect them to come to you. And so that meant, because I didn't have any money, that we just went wherever people were gathering in community, I spent an entire summer in dog parks and river pathways going to every single summer festival. I didn't knock on any doors. I actually went where people were already gathering in community to try and get the message across. But what we also learned - now I'm finally answering your question -

[Nahed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: -  is that a lot of people live online and there were opportunities for us to really engage with people very authentically and very deeply using the then popular social media channels, largely Facebook and Twitter. And my campaign manager famously said that while other candidates and politicians use social media as a television, in other words, they're broadcasting a message, we use it as a telephone. We're actually talking to people and engaging with people. And for many years, even while I was mayor, I was the only one with that Twitter password. So if you were engaging with me on Twitter, that was me.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: I was going to ask you about that. I heard that rumor. So it's true. You were the only one with access to your, your accounts.

Naheed Nenshi: And I would spend, you know, people thought I was on it all day and all night, but I'd actually spend about an hour before I went to bed at night, if that, just answering people's questions. And I really enjoyed that because it gave me a sense outside of the political and media bubble of what people were actually concerned about. You know, there might be this scandalous story on the front page of the newspaper, but if no one was actually talking about it, I would realize that's manufactured. That doesn't have legs. Let's actually talk about what people are actually talking about. So it worked really, really well until about 2015 when everything went to hell <laugh> and maybe I'll stop there. <Laugh> and we can talk about the post 2015 world after we hear from Marsha.

Vanessa Vermette: Sure. Yeah, I was going to say you're making this sound so idyllic, you know, 2010 seemed like such a, an innocent time in social media engagement when we look back from where we are today, but it's it's never the less fascinating to hear how it all got started in the context of your campaign.

Marsha Lederman: I'd almost forgotten how pleasant it could be. It was...

Naheed Nenshi: used to be fun to go on. You know?

Marsha Lederman: It was fun. It really was. Occasionally it still is, but always with a hint of, or a threat of what could go wrong.

Vanessa Vermette: Absolutely. And, and this is a great segue Marsha into my question for you. Obviously social media has changed journalism and the media industry enormously since its inception. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about at what point social media became an important part of your job as a journalist and how your ability to connect with readers changed the way you worked or, or didn't what stayed the same and what changed.

Marsha Lederman: That is a great question. I, I know I joined Facebook in 2007. I remember the moment and it became initially very, very useful in terms of finding people, finding stories, finding guests, a great way to reach out to people. It was fun. It was largely social. And then Twitter came along. I don't remember exactly when I joined, I was an early adopter. I believe I joined maybe in 2008 or early 2009.

[Marsha Lederman appears full screen]

Marsha Lederman: And again, it was a way to stay in touch with people and find out what was going on, maybe track down a story. And then it became more and more a way to promote my own work, to promote the stories that I was writing and put them out in the world because as social media became more and more important, fewer and fewer people, so I understand, were going, you know, to the Globe and and searching for an art story that they might want to read.

So I was trying to help my stories get out into the world. And Twitter was a great tool for that. I came across a lot of stories that way, turned them into scoops, got a lot of understanding about what was going on in various sectors through dialogue that started on Twitter, mostly Twitter, I would say sometimes Facebook and, and it was also fun. It was a great way, you know, on Oscar night, I'm  not writing the Oscar story for the Globe and Mail, but I can still communicate with people who are watching the Oscars and, you know, offer my thoughts and <laugh>,

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Marsha Lederman: you know, sometimes unexpected things happen and you can respond to them immediately. And so those are some of the good ways that I have used Twitter in the past and continue to use it. And Facebook too, to a lesser extent. Also, I just want to say, Nenshi, Mayor Nenshi, it's weird using your first name,  I can't get used to.

Naheed Nenshi: Naheed is fine. <Laugh>

Marsha Lederman: All right. You're one of the best people to interview ever. You're always so smart and delightful and honest and candid. So I, I just want to put that out there.

Naheed Nenshi: No, that's very sweet. Thank you. <Laugh> and I talk too much.

Vanessa Vermette: <Laugh> well, that's not a problem.

Marsha Lederman: This would not be a Twitter exchange. We'd be going at each other probably.

Naheed Nenshi: Yeah.

Vanessa Vermette: Yeah,  no politics in full sentences anymore, I think.

Naheed Nenshi: I still try.

Vanessa Vermette: <Laugh> Keep up the, keep up the effort.

Naheed Nenshi: Maybe I can jump on a little bit and talk about what I think happened starting in 2015 and where we got to sort of tribalism situation that we're in now. Now I need everyone to quickly, if people are still working from home, is the Federal Civil Service still working from home?

Vanessa Vermette: Mostly. Yes, but there are some that are back.

Naheed Nenshi: Get your tin foil and make your tin foil hat. Cause what I'm about to say will sound like a bit of a conspiracy theory, but it actually happened, the strangest stories actually happened. And what happened starting in about 2015 is twofold. One is that people realized that they could - politicians and political strategists realized that they could actually use social media in particular Twitter, but really all social media to rile people up to kind of build communities, which is fine. That happens. I mean, I did that. I wasn't really riling people up, but I was trying to get people more excited about where they live about the possibilities for their own community in the future. But then something a little more nefarious happened. So you may recall the scandal around a company called Cambridge Analytica. This was widely reported at the time, but strangely I don't think because it sounds too much like a conspiracy that it was really reported in terms of what happened there and what the goal was.

So I'll tell you. So very smart people at this firm discovered that they could use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to look at Marcia Lederman's social media output and make a whole bunch of assumptions about who she is, what she'll buy, what she'll work on. This is very standard online market. I'm marketing professor by profession. So this is, you know, great for the marketing world. And so what Cambridge Analytica did was it used very cutting edge technology, and they're not the only ones who did it, but they're the most well known for what I would call pretty nefarious ends. So you see people who are typically anti - anti-government anti-community, angry people are traditionally loners.

[Nahed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: You have some neo-Nazi groups and some white supremacist kinds of organizations, but typically loners. And they feel that nobody understands them, that the world is against them. And they certainly don't vote because all government is corrupt and evil. So what Analytica figured out was if they could use people's social media footprint to kind of identify people who might be, I'll just be blunt, haters, racists, and others, they could use that information. And most people know that's what they did. What they don't know is the next part. And the next part is what they did was they created online groupings for these folks to belong to and they seeded them with increasingly radical messages, as well as voting messages. So a group that had never before voted, suddenly became very engaged in politics and very high voting percentages. It was in short, the radicalization of already radical people. And I don't need to tell anyone who lives in Ottawa, Vanessa, what happened?

Vanessa Vermette: I was just going to ask about, you know, the impact of, of what we just saw with the convoy protests and, and kind of how we just see that that extremism and the polarization grow even further and further.

Naheed Nenshi: And so these folks it's, it's sad and it's difficult. And I've kept a few of my Facebook friends who are kind of from this world on my Facebook to watch their continuing radicalization. And if I can say another controversial thing, one thing we have to talk about in Canada and we never will, is not the radicalization of young Muslim men, which I'm asked about constantly. We have to talk about the radicalization of white people. And I don't think we ever will. I don't think we're brave enough. But the thing that is sad about this whole situation is that these folks genuinely believe that they're in the majority, that everyone agrees with them. And I was listening to some interviews with some of the convoy folks on the night, the police came in, some reporters were standing there as the police were coming in, chatting with people. And these wise these, they were, they weren't putting it on. They were genuinely surprised and shocked that the police had a job other than to protect them.

You know, they actually thought everyone agrees with them. The police are on their side. The only one who's against them is the Prime Minister and their entire worldview was based on that. And ironically, they call everyone else sheep, but they fallen in a world where if a source that they trust says something, they accept it unquestioningly. And so this is a real challenge, and I know we're talking about social media, but the challenge is that this is also reflecting in real life. And this is where we have a very significant problem with our community as a whole, where social media is just a mirror to that community more than a problem in and of itself. And I'm very worried about it. I'm very worried about what it takes to bring the sense of community back. I'll tell you that in the middle of running the pandemic two years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, I actually felt a bit of optimism because I felt that okay, the pandemic is bringing us together. We're all making sacrifices for one another. And this reminds us as the flood in Calgary in 2013 did of the ability for us to be able to work together as community, but as the pandemic wore on, as people legitimately were exhausted as they were losing their footing, in terms of the pandemic, upending, everything we know about community and society, things got way worse.

Marsha Lederman: Can I say something about echo chambers because they work in two ways. There's the echo chamber...

[Marsha Lederman appears full screen]

Marsha Lederman: ...that Naheed is talking about this really radical group that I think feels in a way that is very different from, I'm sure, well, I think the three of us, but there's also the echo chamber of the maybe more we'd be called "the Left "by that group.

Vanessa Vermette: The laptop class.

Marsha Lederman: The laptop class. Yes. Although most people do have laptops at this point, in least around here. But we're also in our own echo chamber, and I think that this I think there, a couple of things have happened that made us realize how absolutely different things looked outside of our own bubble, our Liberal bubble, the election of Donald Trump. Oh my God. Who could have thought that would happen based on everyone that we talked to, not just in person, but in our social media circles.

And then I think again, we saw it with the, with the convoy, with the truckers protests, we saw all of these people come out of the woodwork and for us, because we are in our bubbles, listening to other people saying the same things that we are reading the same news that we are - the real news. And suddenly you've got all of these people who think this other thing. Yes, their numbers are not as vast as one might think if you ever tweet something and get responses from them. But I think the echo chamber is a dangerous place and it's, it's dangerous for us because we need to look outside it. And it's great that you know, that you keep a few Facebook friends who are, you know, on the anti-vaxers or whatever, however you want to categorize them. But I have a hard time reading some quite a bit of what is said in those groups. And I found myself unfollowing quite a few people, which is dangerous. You need to know what's being said, what's out there.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]:

Vanessa Vermette: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, you've both been the target of, I think, extensive online harassment in the course of your careers and engaging publicly online. Can you tell us a little bit we'll start with you again, Marsha, since you were just talking about this

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: about some of the negative experiences you've had with social media, the impact it's had on you and maybe some strategies that you've, you've developed to, to deal with that.

Marsha Lederman: Sure. I'm going stick with the truckers protest because this was for me the absolute worst experience that I've had. I'm, I'm sure that Naheed has had much worse experiences, but this, this was absolutely bizarre, surreal, and very upsetting to the point where I considered leaving social media and, and still think about it.

[Marsha Lederman appears full screen]

Marsha Lederman: On the first weekend of those protests, I was kind of surprised to see them here in Vancouver. And I tweeted something about the Canadian flag becoming a symbol of something that made me uncomfortable and, oh my gosh, did I ever get a response! And the response was, it was really interesting. A lot of the responses were worded exactly the same often from, you know, accounts that were like "Bob065302" with an American flag and maybe a Canadian flag and they were nasty, really nasty.

And then the second week, I can't believe I did this again, but I decided to tweet something again. And if I have time, I'd just like to explain why. If the tweet was "I was about to go out to run an errand". I was going to get a piece of pizza for my 13 year old son. And he said to me, if you see any trackers, pretend you're not a Jew. And I decided to tweet that, which, you know, I went through kind of a thought process. Should I tweet that? Should I not? I'm about to publish a book about the Holocaust and I am very, I have resolved to try to do whatever I can to speak up against antisemitism and racism. So this was part of me saying, I'm doing, I'm doing a good thing by sharing this tweet with the world.

My son has seen that there was a swastika at this at the rally in Ottawa. This has upset him as a 13 year old Jewish kid. He's worried about his mother going out for a slice of pizza. So I sent out this tweet, I go get the pizza. I come home and holy moly, I had been ratioed. And I'll just quickly explain what ratioed is for anyone who doesn't know what that is. So when you send out a tweet, someone can like it, they can retweet it either with a comment or just a retweet, or they can comment on it. When you have far more comments than you have likes - that is the ratio - you've been ratioed and those comments are generally not positive, I will say. And they were horrible. Some of these comments were just vile.

And I, I did express what some of them were in that video that you referenced earlier. I was called the C word. I was called the K word. The worst comment probably was when someone accused my grandparents of being Nazi sympathizers. My grandparents were murdered in gas chambers. It was really, really horrible and raw and crazy. It was a crazy situation.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Marsha Lederman: And I didn't really know what to do about, you know, sort of self care at this moment. I've taken notifications off my phone long ago. I do not get a "ding" every time someone says something about me or, or uses my handle. And then, you know, you've gotta consider the source, because you know, "Amy60532" might not really be Amy and probably isn't. And that was something that I had to really think about who are these people? And I just don't fight back. There's no point, absolutely no point. I'm not sure if that answered your question, but that's just the most recent, horrible thing that has happened to me.

Vanessa Vermette: Yeah, no, absolutely. It sounds like you went full circle from, you know, being committed to engage and then kind of keeping your distance a little bit more in setting some boundaries around how you interact on social media. And I think that's, I don't know what else you can do, frankly, other than like you said, delete your accounts and, and go dark because there's still important conversation happening in that space. But there, there is a lot, a lot of, negativity out there as well. Naheed did you have anything you wanted to add on that question about your, your own experience?

Naheed Nenshi: Yeah. Well, let me go back to what Marsha was saying about the echo chamber. Echo chambers have, of course always existed. And even before social media, we tend to hang out with and talk to people with whom we are simpatico. And in one way, at the beginning of social media, it made it easier for us to actually understand the views of others, because they're right there. I don't actually have to go for a drink with somebody, right? I can read what they think about. And so in that way it was very, very positive. However, the two challenges I see are first that the echo chambers are translating to real life action which can make people uncomfortable in many ways. And I will say, and I'll be blunt about it, that there are echo chambers on both sides and the people on the right or the alt-right would say, well, BLM is an echo chamber. Absolutely.

But I would argue that the echo chamber we're seeing grow on the, and I won't even say the right on the populist side is much more dangerous. And the reason by the way that I won't say the right is because COVID has done something weird. And as a political observer, if you can be detached about it, it'll be interesting to see if this lasts,

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi  which is a real unity between a lot of people who would be considered on the traditional Left and a lot of people on the traditional Right. How long can that last? But maybe it will. Maybe there, because I've always said Left and Right are artificial constructs, that don't mean anything to anyone. So maybe we've discovered a new way of bringing people together. So that's number one is that this is translating into real life.

The second is that there is a lot of fakeness.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Naheed Nenshi  So "Amy608749", right, is not a real person. And the algorithms are smart enough that she, or he can look like a real person. So, you know, when I ran for office in 2010, there was really no racism to speak of in that campaign. The issue of my faith came up exactly twice once when I had a vandalism incident at my campaign office, which does happen, but happened on September the 11th. And so the question was, were these jerks or racist jerks?

Vanessa Vermette: Right

Naheed Nenshi: That actually was a great thing because I ended up getting my single largest individual donor that day, because she felt so bad, a member of the Jewish community who said, well, this is not the city I live in and raised a ton of money for me in that community, by the way after that.

But you know, that it came out once, but then the second time was when the Calgary Herald published a story. And, you know, and when you run an election, let's just for interest sake in the old days, I think it's still like this Marsha, you tell me, but you get to meet with the editorial board of the newspaper. And they are, they determine, you know, whether or not they're going to endorse you, but there's also a reporter in the room. And so he, or she will ask you a ton of questions. And she, in my, in this case is she will write a story about you, a profile. And it's the only thing you get during the election that's only about you. Every other story is, has to deal with all the candidates. And in this particular case, after a long, arduous editorial board meeting, where I was grilled on public transit and property taxes and road maintenance, she asked me a question I wasn't expecting.

And the question was, do you think Calgary is ready for a Muslim mayor? And I was a bit shocked by the question. And I said, well, you know, growing up, I never, once in my life thought that there was any job that was closed to me because of my faith, other than Rabbi. And we just went on, right? But the one profile of me that got written in the newspaper, the headline was 'ethnic kid, ready to be mayor" or something. And the entire thing was about my faith. And she interviewed random Muslims who don't even know me in different parts of the country about my faith. And it was really quite something. And by the way, I should point out that this is an outstanding journalist. She continues to be an outstanding journalist. She had spent tons of time in Afghanistan. She just sort of thought this was an interesting twist and she's felt guilty about it probably since the day it was published.

And I've long ago told her you did what you thought was right. It's fine. But the newsroom got more complaints about that article than anything else they had ever published in the previous two years.

Vanessa Vermette: Wow.

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: Because people said, we don't care about his faith. We care about what he's going to do to the potholes, so I'm making it sound very idyllic. It wasn't that idyllic, but the issues of racism and Islamophobia never really came up. And I remember at one point I had a debate with one of my staff members for like weeks about whether we should ban one guy from our Facebook page who was kind of being a jerk. And of course, as things moved on, the racial attacks became daily when I was still a politician, the banning was hourly <laugh>. And in the end, what I did about a year ago is I turned off replies on my Twitter.

So some people say, some people still quote tweet me and say, how dare you, you coward. And I want to say, and I can't, even though I'm only a retired politician, I'm not a coward. I'm not scared of you. I just don't care about you. <Laugh>.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Naheed Nenshi: And I don't care what you think. But what happened is all the "Lisa07494" has just disappeared. As people now have to do one extra step to reply to me, one extra click, and that actually removed all of the bots. And yes, it led to less engagement, but the reason, so I didn't finish my story - I was the only one with the Twitter password for a long time. And I'm the only one with the Twitter password again, now that I'm retired, but for the last few years, I never went on it.

Someone else managed it. And we used it like a television. It was just "green cart Spring schedule starts next week". And the reason for that was because when I would go on and try to answer someone's legitimate question, you know, they would say, when does the green cart Spring schedule start? And I never said, just Google. It I'd go, Here's the link. Right? And it starts on this day. But then a whole whack of people would send nasty things about how green carts are part of the 5g world conspiracy against the oil and gas sector. But the point is they would copy the poor person who asked the question, right? So their timeline would get completely full of garbage. And that was the reason I stopped, because I thought that it was just not fair for those folks to have their timeline corrupted that way, because then it made social media less fun for them. And so now I'm back on it rarely, I don't read it much, but every now and then I do comments. I spend a lot of time on Facebook, but my first personal Facebook is locked down. So it's like 2010 Facebook. I see pictures of people's kids and say happy birthday to my friends, you know, and I've got some friends who post a daily joke or a daily distraction. So I love that because that feels like community, but it is locked down. My privacy settings are high and I don't accept friend requests from people I don't know. So that's helped me try to get back a little bit of what's good, but it certainly hasn't helped deal with the bigger, more existential problems here.

Vanessa Vermette: Absolutely. And I mean, you, you've told us a little bit about how you manage social media now, today in your current life. I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how your use of social media and public engagement changed from campaigning to governing when you actually became Mayor?

Naheed Nenshi: You know, there, there's a deeper question there, right? And the deeper question is how you move from campaigning to governing. And so one of the interesting things for me is I had been a critic in the best meaning of that term of the previous civic government for a long time, I was the defacto city hall columnist for the Calgary Herald.

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: I had a column on CBC radio and I had been quite critical and a lot of folks asked me as it looked like I might actually win this election. How are you now going to gain the support the of people you've been so critical with? And so the one thing that really shifted in my mind was that I now have 15,000 colleagues who rely on me every day - people who drive the bus and the garbage trucks and police officers and firefighters and so on.

And I don't have to agree with everything the city does. And, but now I have the ability to change it. So I can't just be critical all the time, and I also need to be bound by loyalty to the women and men who come to work every day. And so that was a really important step for me. But a lot of people said, well, geez, you know, where's your fire? The good news is that I'm uncensored at the best of times.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Naheed Nenshi: So the fire was still there, but you really do have to understand that even if you disagree with the decision and in Municipal government, this is really critical because there's no government, there's no opposition. You know, in Vancouver, in the lower mainland, and in some parts of Quebec, there are political parties at the municipal level, but in most of Canada, there are not.

And so I've got 15 people and they often out vote me. I can only get something done if I have eight of them or seven of them agreeing with me, great. But once council makes that decision or once the city does that, my job is to defend it. And because I have to explain why it happened, even if I disagreed with it. So sometimes I would say, look, I disagreed with this, but I'll tell you why council voted for it, and what they were thinking. And so the use of social media for me, had to become a lot more like that. And I think that, you know, you get a lot of benefits when you're in power, you get to be in power, but you have to give some things up. And one of the things you have to give up is that you have to have some grace in the work you do, some magnanimity and you can only ever punch up, never punch down. And I think too many politicians have gotten corrupted by the discourse and have forgotten that rule.

Vanessa Vermette: Well, actually you're touching on, on my next question for you both. I want to hear from both of you on this is about the theme of trust, which is, you know, a key theme in today's event. And talking about what role do you think social media plays in either building trust with your public audiences or, or the opposite, or kind of destroying trust? Because I think we've seen cases of both. So what role does it play in building that trust with your audience or kind of hurting it? So we'll start with you again Naheed.

Naheed Nenshi: I think trust is the single most critical issue we're facing in our community today. People's trust in politicians, in institutions, in journalists is...

Vanessa Vermette: In government.

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: And in government is seriously on the decline and we have to arrest this. We have to stop it and we have to turn it around because a society that does not have trust is a society that cannot function. And so part of that is looking at the root causes of what is causing this decline in trust. And there's a lot of tactical things here around social media, around how we're having conversations, but there's also a few deeper issues. And we have to think about how to address those. So for example, the country has never been wealthier than it is now, but most people don't feel wealthier. So what has happened, you know, the Minister of Finance can go on about the incredible numbers in the economy, but if people don't feel that when they go grocery shopping, that's a problem. So if I may sound very Left Wing for a moment, something we never talk about anymore, because it's unfashionable is the issue of income inequity, but it's a very big deal.

And the concentration of wealth among the very few wealthiest people in our community is not something that's happened forever. This is a recent phenomenon and it, by the way, is a phenomenon that was designed. The mechanisms by which we set executive compensation, where companies want to be at the 60 or 65th percentile of their peer group, just do the math. That automatically means that compensation is going to ratchet up and up and up and up. When I graduated university, not that long ago, the average CEO made 20 to 50 times what the average worker did in their business. Now they make 400 times what the average worker did. That's a recent phenomenon and we have to figure out how we address that so that people can feel like they actually have a stake in their community and their community has a stake in them. Similarly, we learned at the beginning of COVID about the way that we had structured our long term care system, that many people, even if they have family members in long term care, probably hadn't thought about, but the entire long term care system in most provinces is based on a system where the government pays a private operator, what it would cost the government to run that facility.

And the private operator makes money on the difference between what it would cost the government and what they themselves have to pay. So how do they do that? They do that by part-time workers, devaluing workers, not giving them benefits. And almost all of these workers are women. Almost all of them are racialized. And we've designed a system where they came to Canada and we gave them the ability to come to Canada because they were educated in a field, and as soon as they got here in the world's greatest bait and switch, we said, well, you can't actually work in your field, but if you considered long-term care, part-time job. And so they're in a system where they do the work every single day with no hope of advancement and no hope for change, except for their kids. And that again was designed. That's not just human nature. And so for us to rebuild that trust, we really have to address some of what we've done to people to cause them to lose trust in how we move forward. So we can whine about the fake news and how that's destroyed interest in real journalism, and that's a real problem and it's something I really share, but we also have to go to why are people attracted to that in the first place? And it's because they're living lives where they're not seeing the hope that they once had, and they're looking for scapegoats

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: And maybe social media has made all of that inequity and unfairness and more visible. Right?

[Marsha Lederman appears full screen]

Marsha Lederman: And it's also, I mean, it has fueled, I think it's fueled the ability to break down the trust that does exist. And I agree with everything that you've just said, absolutely everything, but I will say that when there are groups of people who have an interest in creating some kind of break in the trust that exists between a population and the media, for instance, and they have a tool as effective as Twitter and Facebook with you know, I'll use the term "bots", but these are organized campaigns as we just heard a few minutes ago and you have the ability to fuel distrust and send out information that is suspicious, or not suspicious, but is actually incorrect, but makes the reader question the actual journalism that is out there, the actual information, the science as we've been hearing well, that is that is a huge problem. And I think that the system is, yes, the system is broken. I think social media has helped to fuel that in a grand and scary way. And I don't really know how social media can like bring it back. I feel like the, the horse is way out of the barn at this point.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: Yeah. What you just said made me think about that seminal Merchants of Doubt, remember about the tobacco industry. And now it seems we have millions of merchants of doubt out there, helping people question everything that they might see online and really feeling like they can't trust any information that that they come across, which is a pretty scary place to be.

Marsha Lederman: Yeah. And you see it, I just want to say you see it, not just from these organized you know, elements, I think they have, that has emboldened the average person to come out, swinging against, you know, actual journalism, good journalism. I see it all the time. The way my colleagues are attacked for reporting stories about vaccinations or you know, anything to do with COVID or actually anything to do with anything now. that's how bad it's become. So I think it's gone from this sort of organized campaign to now people feeling like, oh yeah, I can do this, elbows up. I'm going to show them what I'm made of too. And it's, it's very nasty.

Naheed Nenshi: Yeah. A lot of this depends on what your base assumption is about people. And I got to tell you mine is getting shook a little because I've always believed that people are intrinsically good and will do the right thing regardless of their partisanship. But what we're seeing is exactly what Marsha is highlighting is that people are emboldening the dark sides of their nature. We're living in a society where people are losing their shame or their ability to actually stick with societal norms, it's self-indulgence.

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: And so the question is, how deep does that go? Or will that hit a wall of, "but people are decent?" And I don't know the answer to that. I wish I did, but I will tell you that the group that we have led off the hook a little bit here is actual politicians, because there are many, many politicians who see a lot of short term gain in fueling this problem. And then they get freaked out when it comes back to bite them, because they don't know the monsters they've let out of the closet. So we're seeing these long games play out in many, many places. And it's exhausting because it feels like you've gotta fight it on multiple fronts all at the same time, but it has to be done because without that, then we will not be able to solve the problems. So let me, let me try to move to a more optimistic note.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: <Laugh> please do. Because I don't want to leave our listeners our viewers on that note. So we'll try to shift tone of it while we close off.

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: Let me start with there's nowhere in the world I'd rather be having these conversations than here in Canada. We benefit, and I'm not just saying this because of this audience, we benefit from an incredibly professional civil service, from government that is stable and not ideologically driven, even when it is, if that makes sense.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Naheed Nenshi: And we benefit from the fact that we've had multiculturalism and pluralism as our official government policy for 50 years now, as long as I've been alive. And so there's nowhere I want to be more than here in solving this problem. I'd much rather be here than in most countries in Europe, than with our neighbors to the South in having this discussion. And yes, despite all of what happened in Ottawa and what happens every weekend in Calgary, on the streets, we have the highest vaccination rates in the world we have among the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, which shows that people when asked to do the right thing will do the right thing and will look after one another in doing that right thing.

So that's really important. And that makes it better to live here. And the other thing I will say is that I don't know what the solution is. I don't know where we are trying to go. I don't know what anti-racism looks like for example, but I kind of know how to get there. I kind of know what the path is and the path really is around service. It's around "seva". That's a Sanskrit word that everyone in Calgary knows, but it is around having that service and ensuring that all of us are looking at ways that we can individually and collectively build the community together. That's really everything. And I think that moments of crisis remind us of service, but that ultimately it's in every one of our hands to be able to make this kind of change.

Vanessa Vermette: I love that that is really optimistic and it fills, actually fills my heart to hear that it's it's really, really a nice nice thought.

Naheed Nenshi: I should actually quickly tell you that I, I launched a program when I was mayor, which I brought home with me, which I literally brought home with me because the only physical manifestation of it is a giant foam figurine, which lives in my basement right now. And the foam figurine is the number three, and it's a program I launched in Calgary and then expanded across the country for Canada Sesquicentennial, still my favorite word to say in 2017, it's more fun in French, sesquicentenaire. But it's three things for Canada. And the whole point of it is incredibly simple. We're just asking every Canadian every year to do three acts, at least, of community service could be something small - shovel your neighbor's walk, could be something big, take on the Alberta curriculum. Doesn't matter if it's big or small, it just matters that it's seva, it's service. And ultimately I think that is how we get out of this, because that is what reminds us of our humanity and of our responsibility to one another.

Marsha Lederman: Can I say something about education because education is so important and I like you, I'm watching these stories come out of, you know, largely the US and absolutely appalled, you know, you're banning Mouse the Art Spiegelman graphic novel about the about the Holocaust, because there's nudity in it. Like this is absurd, it's actually, you can't believe it. But I have a 13 year old and the level of media literacy among that crowd is so high. He will come down in the morning and tell me things about the news that he is seeing on TikTok. He sees it before I do, and I'm a news junkie. And he also has the ability, generally, to cut through the BS. He can see when someone is, you know, offering some fake news in one of these videos. And there is a lot of fake news on TikTok, I am sorry to report. But he's aware of it. And I think that young people are so smart. I feel like they're so much smarter than we ever were, so much more aware of what's going on. And I have a lot of faith that they're going to be able to cut through the baloney and the lies, and I hope the hate, and do something better with this world, because it's, I mean, it's actually, we're in a crisis now and we're about to hand over a very troubled situation to young people. I think they'll be able to help. I do.

Vanessa Vermette: Yeah, they they're certainly going to be better equipped than we were to kind of tackle these issues as people who've been marinating in the digital environment since they were born. So there's, there's definitely hope in that. We only have a few minutes left, so I do want to close on a little bit of advice that both of you might have for professionals or, or you know, government officials folks working in communications and trying to use social media as a tool of engagement for their audiences. How can they make the most of, you know, the benefits of this tool but still protect their agenda and themselves from the negative pieces of it? So maybe Marsha you'll, you'll get first kick at the can time.

[Marsha Lederman appears full screen]

Marsha Lederman: Yeah, I'd be very quick because we know otherwise I might not get a word in. I would say number one, read social media. It's really important. Read it widely, read diverse areas of social media. Don't just stay in your echo chamber, your bubble with your friends, read it. You don't have to comment. Do not necessarily comment. It's not going to, it's probably not going to accomplish much. And in fact, just the other day in talking with my publicist about my concerns with my book, coming out about the Holocaust, she advised me to close my, not close my replies completely, but keep them to only people I'm following on Twitter. And I might do that just for my own, like just for my own sanity.

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: Do it, it help it changes the world, do it. It's exactly right.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: I've seen so many more people doing that just over the course of the last six months.

[Marsha Lederman appears full screen]

Marsha Lederman: So yeah, I'm about to do that. And so don't, and that'll help you stay on and stay in touch because I really think, you know, that Twitter especially is extremely important, Facebook too, for the discourse. It's where it's happening. It's where the debate is happening. Politicians are reading it, so are journalists. So you can't completely remove yourself from it. Read it. You don't have to comment.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

Vanessa Vermette: Thanks, Marsha. What about you Naheed?

[Naheed Nenshi appears full screen]

Naheed Nenshi: A hundred percent. That's that's exactly right. Stay plugged in, but you don't have to comment. Ask yourself, what will my comment accomplish? Will I change this person's mind? No, you won't. Remember that the greatest lie in the world is "my opinions do not reflect the views of my employer."

Vanessa Vermette: <Laugh>

Naheed Nenshi: Because people will find out who you work for. And somehow that will cause drama and it's drama you just don't need in your life. But do, you know, continue to work in community, continue to comment on your local hockey team, continue to comment on that great new family run Mexican restaurant that you found, right? Because these, it sounds trite, but these are the things that build community. And you know, those moments when it's still fun are the moments where someone says "my 13 year old said the goofiest thing. What's the goofiest thing your teen has said?", and you know, thousands and thousands of replies that just make you laugh out loud and those things still exist. And those things are the things that remind us of our humanity, because you've all seen that meme on social media during the, during the convoy that said what they want us to think about the division of society...

[Naheed Nenshi makes slicing gestures with his hands]

and the egg is split in the middle and then the actual division of society, and there's a little bit cut off the edge of the egg and that is still true. And it's still true on social media. So read widely, but don't let it get you down. Remembering that most people just want to live a decent life and raise their kids and raise their kids into a better world than they have now. And ultimately, I still believe in purple. I still believe that that base humanity is what will prevail.

[Vanessa Vermette, Naheed Nenshi and Marsha Lederman appear in video chat panels]

Vanessa Vermette: That's fantastic. So thank you very much. I'm going to wrap it up here. That's a great note to leave the viewers on, I think. So thank you very much to both of our amazing guest speakers. We're grateful to you both for sharing your wisdom, your insights on this important topic for our viewers today. We also want to thank our audience, who's going to be looking at this.

[Vanessa Vermette appears full screen]

We hope that you enjoyed today's conversation. Please take a few moments to share your feedback with us at the School, using the survey that you're going to receive following the event. If you're interested in learning more about social media and your responsibilities as Public Servants we have a brand new virtual course called navigating social media as a Public Servant. You can find that in our online catalog, this course is going to provide an introduction to engaging effectively and responsibly on social media platforms and using your sound judgment in that kind of open public context. Subscribe to our newsletter if you haven't already. And we're going to see you again soon, take care and enjoy the rest of your week.

[The video chat fades to CSPS logo.]

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